This is Part 2…

   …of my 5 Tips for Teaching Math Online. In part 1 of this topic, I discussed how to prep for your online class and what to do that first day to set the tone and get off on the right foot. If you haven’t read that article yet, you may want to visit it here. Part 2 discusses more details about how I use Zoom and Google Classroom during class.

TIP #3 ZOOM WHITEBOARD AND ANNOTATION FEATURES

During class, using annotation and collaborative screen sharing is a lifesaver! Before Zoom Whiteboard, teaching math online often required a small whiteboard to show a lesson. This is one step better because the writing is clear and students can engage with the lesson directly!
 
Before we start, if you haven’t learned how to use Zoom Whiteboard or how to Annotate as a viewer, Zoom has some pretty good directions here.
 
At the start of the lesson, I open the Zoom Whiteboard. If I’m doing a one-on-one lesson, I give instructions on the left and leave space on the right for students to copy the exact problem. It looks like this:
I like for them to copy the problem as “Notes”. Some students prefer to take their notes on paper, and I always encourage that. But by and large, I have a very difficult time getting online students to write anything down. Well, if I’m honest, I had a hard time getting in-person students to take notes too!
Pro Tip: Using your snipping tool, at the end of a lesson take a picture of the entire Whiteboard. Then, insert it into student’s work so they have a copy of the notes. See Tip #5 for how I organize student work.
If I’m giving a lesson to more than one student, I have students take turns taking notes but I insert the same lesson pictures into both student’s work. Later, when I give more practice examples, if I have more than one student I divide their workspace. I use the line feature and make boxes. I ask the students to each pick a color and “claim” a box to show their work. I don’t recommend doing this with more than four students at a time since the space is limited.
Student Notes Four at a Time

TIP #4 ZOOM BREAKOUT ROOMS AND INDIVIDUAL LESSONS

Remember how in class your math teacher might give a class lesson and then pull a group to the side to work with them while everyone else had an assignment? Teaching math online can have that same feeling if you are using Zoom Breakout rooms.
 
As a general rule, I make the main room the “Quiet Space”. At the beginning of each class, I do a check-in with every student and make sure they understand their day’s work. This helps me be on track with their progress, check any homework I may have assigned, and gives them a goal for the class session.
 
If I am waiting for a student to log in, I will stay in the main room for ten minutes. When you’re in a breakout room, you can’t hear the doorbell feature to notify you that a student is waiting for entrance to the class. I make sure to let students know that I’ll always wait for the first 10 minutes, but after that they may have to wait in the waiting room for a bit until I get back.
 
I try to always pull students into breakout rooms to give individual lessons rather than use the Quiet Space so students can focus. I regularly revisit the Quiet Space every 5-8 minutes to check. This means my math lessons are less than 5-8 minutes!!
 
Of course, that’s not always possible. Some lessons simply have to go longer. Here’s how I manage that.
 
  1. Set Share Screen Permissions-before opening breakout rooms, I make sure to set screen sharing permissions so students can share screen. Then, I manually open a few breakout rooms anticipating different lessons and assign the students I’m pulling aside for a one-on-one or small group lesson.
  2. Students Open Whiteboard-then, rather than opening the Zoom Whiteboard yourself, have the student open it. Since it’s their whiteboard, when you leave to check on the Quiet Space the whiteboard will stay open, your notes will stay on it, and they can continue working while you’re gone checking on the Quiet Space.
  3. Break Up the Lesson into Smaller Bits-give only a 4-5 minute lesson by breaking a longer lesson up into multiple skills. I suggest writing your notes on the left and their notes on the right, leaving space at the bottom for example questions.
  4. Give 3-5 Example Questions-at the end of the mini-lesson, give the student 3-5 example questions at the bottom for them to work on. Inform them you are going to check on the Quiet Space–go and come back for the next mini-session.
I make sure that everyone is working in the Quiet Space and ask if anyone has questions. More importantly, though, I check in on their Google Slides work to see if they’ve progressed. This helps me set up my next lessons and manage the class period. See more about that in Tip #5!

TIP #5 GOOGLE CLASSROOM LIVE COLLABORATION

Teaching math online can have the same accountability for students as sticks and bricks class. Nothing gives more of an in-person class feeling than being able to collaborate with a student on Google Classroom. Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets have revolutionized the way people can collaborate on tasks together. For a teacher and a student, it’s invaluable. For me, it’s like walking around the room and peaking over the shoulder of each student to check their work. I sometimes write them little funny notes or tips while I check through their work, to let them know I’ve seen their progress and encourage them.
 
Here’s how I manage my Google Classrooms.
 
First, I write an entire math unit inside PowerPoint. I do not break up the assignment into the different subjects. I do this for two reasons:
 
  1. I only have 6 students and every student works at their own pace. For larger classes, you may still want to do this but add and remove work to enrich, remediate, and keep students on the same pace.
  2. I hate having to upload assignments every day. I think it’s a complete waste of my time. I’d rather assign homework based on pages each night instead.
Then, before the class begins (as mentioned in Tip #1) I convert the unit to Google Slides. When a student is ready to begin a unit, I add them to the assignment rather than making a new assignment each time.
At the beginning of each class, I have all student’s work open—each in an individual tab—so I can quickly click through and view student’s work. You can see their progress, watch them click around and edit, and even assign more pages, insert notes, or remove work they don’t need to do.
 
Throughout the class, I regularly take a peek at every student’s work. There are a few things you should look for and do when you do this:
 
  • Check the Bubble. At the start of the class session, make sure you see every student’s “bubble” show up and navigate to the page they are working on. Their bubble is their avatar and will have a solid color around it and bounce just a bit. Whatever page their bubble is on is the page they are looking at. You can also see what they have highlighted, which means they’ve clicked on an entry field.
Google Classroom Image showing a student logged onto a Slides page and highlighting work.
  • Check the Bubble Regularly. Regularly check their bubble throughout the class to see if they’ve navigated to another page or even if they’ve lost connection. If their bubble disappears, they do not have their document open anymore. I offer help or the space to ask a question if their bubble isn’t where it should be. I recommend working offline if their bandwidth won’t handle Zoom and Classroom at the same time.
  • Color Code their Work. Check their work as they go and come up with a color code. My answer fields have a light blue background. When a question is wrong, I color the background peach and alert the student. When it is corrected, I color it light purple to indicate it was wrong and now it’s correct!
Consider Using Text Boxes to Communicate. There are a lot of students, especially in middle and high school, that are thoroughly embarrassed when you point out mistakes verbally. I tackle this in two ways: my tone and text boxes. With my tone, I often just blow right through their mistakes as though it is not big deal and with no judgement. I model that with all students. But, if they’ve gotten most of the problems wrong, I don’t call this out in class. Instead, I color them peach and post a text box with a message saying I will pull them into a breakout room very soon to give them a “refresher” lesson. I use the color red so it will stand out. Sometimes it’s just simple messages like the one below.
Use Private Messages to Post Homework. For students that are receiving homework, I use the Private Message feature on the right to assign it to them. I post it with the date and the specifics of what slides or problem numbers I want them to complete by the next class session. I only have 6 students per class, so this is feasible. For larger classes, you will want to manage this differently by perhaps using a group message to the entire class or even copying and pasting private homework assignments into the document.
I hope these tips helped. Are you teaching math online? Or any other subject? I’d love to hear how you use Google Classroom and Zoom Whiteboard…or even anything that might be better! Get in Touch.